The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on federal sentencing disparities for crack and powder cocaine following a Supreme Court decision last week that denied one offender’s petition for a reduced sentence.
Watch the hearing live at 10 a.m. ET in the video player above.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously on June 14 that low-level crack cocaine offenders convicted more than a decade ago can’t take advantage of a 2018 federal law to seek reduced prison time.
The justices affirmed the nearly 16-year prison term handed out to Tarahrick Terry of Florida, who was arrested with 3.9 grams of crack on him in 2008.
Terry’s case concerned the reach of the First Step Act, a bipartisan 2018 law signed by former President Donald Trump. Aimed at reducing racial disparities in sentencing, the law allows prisoners convicted of older crack crimes to seek reduced sentences.
But the law specifically addresses crack possession only above 5 grams for one category of possession and above 50 grams for another category.
That allowed crack cocaine kingpins to seek reduced sentences, but it left convicts like Terry in a legal limbo, with courts around the country coming to different conclusions.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson, R-Ark., will testify before the Senate Tuesday along with Regina LaBelle, acting director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as part of the first panel.
Witnesses in the second panel include Matthew Charles, who spent more than 20 years in prison for selling crack cocaine to an undercover informant and was released in 2019 following the passage of the First Step Act. Russell Coleman, former U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, will also testify, as well as Antonio Garcia, executive director of the South Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, and Steven Wasserman, vice president for policy at the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.
The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.